Cycorp is a leading provider of semantic technologies that bring a new level of intelligence and common sense reasoning to a wide variety of software applications. The Cyc software combines an unparalleled common sense ontology and knowledge base with a powerful reasoning engine and natural language interfaces to enable the development of novel knowledge-intensive applications.
Cyc technology drives MathCraft's learning-by-teaching system. Behind the scenes throughout the game, Cyc simulates the character L, who is the avatar that the player teaches. Cyc facilitates learning-by-teaching by ensuring that L always seems to be a little more confused about the subject matter than the player is.
Cyc provides for different player experiences during math problem solutions. The player's job is to watch L solve math problems and to try to catch and explain L's mistakes. Cyc uses its extremely detailed model of the student’s current math skills and weaknesses together to determine how L should try to solve each math problem. Cyc has L solve each math problem in a way that will lead to the best educational outcomes for the student. For example, assume Cyc knows that a player is prone to adding fractions by adding numerators and denominators separately. When that player is confronted in-game with a problem involving adding fractions, Cyc can use what it knows about the player to have L make the same mistake, thereby giving the player a chance to correct their error.
Cyc also provides for different user experiences in terms of which math problems each player encounters. In many areas of the game, the math problems that a user experiences are not hard-coded. Rather, the game asks Cyc, “Which problems should appear here?” Cyc then examines the user model along with metadata about the problems (e.g. things like knowing that a given problem is good for high-ability students) and selects the best problems. Then Cyc passes this information back to the game, so the game can effectively personalize the player's experience. The game environment itself varies in these situations (for example, players who Cyc thinks need practice with unit conversion will see items measured in different units, but other players will get measurements in the same units).
Cyc provides remedial instruction for players when they make mistakes. When a player makes a mistake in solving a math problem with L, Cyc can identify the mistake as well as determine an appropriate follow-up problem to help remind the student of the correct thing to do.
Thanks to Cyc’s ability to do temporal projection, Cyc can also simulate a player's forgetting of math concepts and skills. If a player is away from MathCraft for a significant time, when they log back in Cyc can lower its estimation of their math concepts and skills by considering the amount of time they’ve been away and projecting how they’re likely to perform, on the assumption that they’ve not been practicing math independently.